For a state department that does nothing but print and issue marijuana registry cards, you’d think the expenses would go down when fewer cards are issued.
Not so at Michigan’s Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Department (LARA), the agency responsible for administering the state Medical Marihuana Program (MMP) patient database.
Despite issuing 26,000 fewer registry identification cards, LARA reported an increase in expenses of $1.8 million- more than a 44% jump from last year’s $4 million price tag.
In Fiscal Year 2013 the state printed 145,000 cards for the program and spent $4 million in expenses. In FY 2014 LARA issued 119,000 cards and charged Michigan citizens $5.8 million to do it.
The $5.8 million comes directly from the Medical Marihuana Fund, a self-generating fund created by the revenues from registration fees paid by medical marijuana patients and caregivers. It was reported earlier in 2014 that the fund had a positive balance of more than $27 million.
Revenue figures for FY 2014 dropped significantly. LARA reports $8.882 million received versus $10.898 in FY 2013.
“The department has a relatively simply task in processing applications and issuing licenses to program participants,” said Jamie Lowell, co-founder of Ypsilanti’s 3rd Coast Compassion Center and Chairman of theMichigan chapter of Americans for Safe Access (ASA). “Although the amount of work has decreased, the cost to run the department has inexplicably significantly increased.”
What LARA is doing with all that extra money is unclear.
“Perhaps some of the excess funds could have been reimbursed to patients, since the state is not intended to profit from the MMMP program,” said Matthew Abel, an attorney and co-founder of Detroit’s Cannabis Counsel. He’s also the Executive Director for the Michigan chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (MiNORML). “If the state wants to profit, then we should move toward legalization and collect state sales tax on marijuana. If we did that, perhaps we could fix and maintain the roads without raising the sales tax.”
PROGRAM STILL STRONG
As the result of legislative action in 2012 the MMP began a two-year registry period in 2013. Each medical marijuana identification card issued for half of FY 2013- starting in April- would not have to be re-registered until 2015 or 2016.
Renewal applications for the MMP would have been received during the last quarter of 2013 and the first quarter of 2014, meaning there should have been no renewal applications …Read More